Returning Birdman can lift the Heat over the Pacers
The Indiana Pacers showed their redoubtable mettle to take Game 6, but face an uphill struggle as the series heads back to the American Airlines Arena for the decider.
They are 14/5 to upset the odds and prevail in Miami on Monday night, while the home side are 2/7 to face off for the Championship against the San Antonio Spurs.
The two sides have traded wins in the first six games, a pattern which, if continued, would see Miami post a third Finals appearance in as many years.
There is very little to split the two sides, with points in the paint proving the deciding factor thus far: over their three wins Miami have outscored Indiana 146-116, while Indy have garnered success on a 134-94 superiority.
Game 6 saw the Pacers re-establish an overwhelming dominance in that area, out-rebounding the Heat by 20, while Miami got worryingly little from established stars Dwayne Wade (3 of 11), Chris Bosh (1 of 8) and Ray Allen (1 of 5), and were again left wholly dependent on LeBron James for any sort of meaningful contribution.
However, Chris Andersen returns for the defending champions in Game 7 after a sustaining a one-game suspension. The forward is yet to miss a shot this series, and offers Eric Spoelstra a proficient rebounding and defensive option.
Joel Anthony filled in for the suspended Andersen in Game 6, playing 28 minutes from the bench, but shot just 1 of 5 from the floor, while starter Udonis Haslem shot 0 for 2; Andersen’s return could swing the series back in Miami’s favour.
During the playoffs, when ‘Birdman’ is on the court,Miami are scoring 116.6 points per 100 plays, a figure that drops to 106.2 when he is consigned to the bench.
It’s hard to see the Heat faltering in back-to-back games. They are a formidable outfit on homecourt, where they have lost just six times over the entire season. However, the winning margin market should garner attention. Indiana are 10/11 to win on a line of +7. They would have taken two of the three matches to have been played in Miami on this line.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing